Dear PoP – Craigslist Scams

Photo from PoPville flickr user ewilfong

“Dear PoP,

My little sister is moving to the city and is having a hard time finding a place for a reasonable price. She wants to be close to public transportation, and also needs parking and a landlord that won’t mind her 120lb dog. She found a place on craigslist in Georgetown- advertised as 2 bed, 2 bath, 1100sq foot for $1100 a month. Here’s the initial correspondence from the landlord (I’ve tried to take out the personal info):

> Hello,
> Thanks for taking the time to look at my property.My name is XXX, 52 years old and I’m the owner of this condo(2 bedrooms,2 bathrooms,1100 square footage).I lived in this beautiful condo for over 5 years,loved every day of it.It
> ‘s located in the heart of Georgetown at XXXX Grace St.The prime location can’t be beat and the garaged parking is an amenity sure to be appreciated by anyone(located at 1/2 block to M street,1/2 block to Georgetown Waterfront Park….Views of Potomac and Downtown Arlington from balcony).The condo is fully furnished with all necessary amenities(exactly like in the pics),the unit is equipped with recessed lighting, central air and heat, the condo come with two parking spots,a storage unit where you can deposit my furniture (if you don’t like it and you want use your furniture),there is also a linen closet, and most importantly, a new front loading stacked washer and drier.Pets allowed.I’ve moved to United Kingdom with my job and decided to rent it because the rent is very expensive here.The price is so low because I’m here and is very hard to find a tenant.I can rent you the condo for min. 1 month and max. 6 years(or more).I really want to find a good and responsible tenant for it, and I hope that you can send me some personal information about yourself.The rent for the whole condo for 1 month is $1100 including all utilities(water,electricity, internet, cable, parking , airconditioning, fireplace, dishwasher, garbage) and the security deposit is 1100$(you’ll get the deposit back at your departure-or you can use it to pay your last month of rent) and I want to receive the money monthly in my bank account. You can move in the condo in the same day when you receive the keys. The only problem is that I`m the only person who has the keys and I have nobody in United States that could show you the condo. In order to check it, see if you like it(I’m sure that you’ll love it), you need to receive the keys and the contract.
> If you want to rent the condo, please e-mail me back and I will explain you how the payment and shipping will take place!
> Regards, XXXX”

Yes, this is definitely a scam. For me this was an easy one. But I know I’ve been tricked at least once or twice when I’ve selected “Rentals of the Week”. So again, while this one may seem super obvious, what are other tips for picking out craigslist scams for rentals that are a bit more subtle but still a scam?

21 Comment

  • 1. You must see it in person, must sign lease in person.
    2. Ask for a lease copy prior to signing (you want to read it anyways)
    3. Check the landlords name on the lease against the property owner,
    4. Be wary of anyone that doesn’t ask for an application.
    5. Use common sense and trust your gut feeling.

  • Don’t send anything via money order, cashiers check, Western Union or MoneyGram.

    Always, always, always insist on speaking to the person by phone before you do any action.

    Any wild stories about the owner using a low price to fill the unit fast because they are abroad or out of country is a scam.

    A general rule to craigslist is “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”

    • Oh, don’t forget typos and terrible grammar mistakes. Any posting where the person sounds “foreign” or it looks like the person used a word translator for the ad means it’s probably a sham. Hey… if it talks like a duck…

  • Hey why are you guys trying to ruin my Craig’s List business?

  • To the OP: what’s “reasonable” rent? $1200/mo? $2000/mo?

    1. Close to public transportation (which I assume means Metrorail) 2. parking and 3. Ok with a 120 pound dog are all going to combine to drive the price up. It’s hard enough to find the first two in DC for ~1500, and I can only imagine what adding a huge dog to the mix is going to do to the rent. I’d suggest looking at English basements with backyards or pet-friendly group houses.

  • When they ask you to pull your own credit report.

    • I do this and have a friend that does as well. It’s more just being lazy and not wanting to have to charge an application fee. I’ve yet to find a free site that will pull credit reports.

      I just ask that a credit report be included w/ the application and point them at the government site (not freecreditreport)

  • the price right there should have been a dead give-away even before reading any of the other stuff that make it 100% obvious it’s a scam. if the price is waaay too good to be true, it is.

  • It is the weirdest thing that it always seems to mention the UK in these emails. I’ve gotten that for many apts and even trying to sell car parts.

  • Any time somebody says they’re not in the country and needs to make out-of-the ordinary arrangements for keys/lease signing, etc… run away.

  • What everyone else said. Anyone who actually is living out of the country and renting out property they own here will have some kind of management company doing it for them. None of this “send me money and I’ll send you the keys” BS.

  • I’m looking for an apartment right now and nearly half the ads I reply to are flagged or removed or just spam. Is there anywhere real to live?

    • I don’t reply to new ads until a few hours after they are posted, so the flaggers have time to do their flagging.

  • There is nothing at all hard to figure out about these scams.

    There is no legitimate situation that would require sending money to someone before you’ve been able to personally see the property in question. Who writes checks before they’ve even been to the address? Frankly I’m shocked that anyone would ever be taken by such a scam.

    Nobody in the US has keys? Right. And there are no such people as “property managers” who exist specifically to deal with your rental when you can’t?

    I certainly feel bad for someone who loses money in a scam like this. But seriously, a fool and their money are soon parted. Nothing new under the sun here.

    • well thanks for being an a**hole… the fact is that many people get taken in these scams, and many of these people are not fools. many of them are elderly, young and inexperienced in renting, english as a second language etc.

      thanks for all the tips though everyone, it is helpful.

  • I say send counterfeit or monopoly money to the address and see if you get a key back.

  • Scam, scam scam.

  • in addition to what everyone else says:

    a) if the pictures look like they’re to a house but the ad describes an apartment.

    b) if google street view doesn’t match up with the exterior photos.

    c) if it’s just listed as being in “NW” (this isn’t a scam so much as a ripoff targeted at people who don’t realize there are sketchy parts of NW and nice neighborhoods in other quadrants)

    Also, ask prospective landlords for a statement from their lender saying they’re not behind on the mortgage (and if it’s a condo, something from the association saying they’re current on fees). While you have rights if you’re renting a place that gets foreclosed, it can be a total pain and it’s probably better to avoid it.

  • If they are nigerian princes it almost always checks out

  • if you think you’ve seen the pictures before, you have

    Ask the poster a simple question. If they answer it with a long form letter that doesn’t answer the question, it’s a scam.

    My favorite CL scanner is the owner-is-a-missionary-coupl- in-Africa one. They’re getting much better at credible ads lately, but still don’t bother to recognize email addresses from people they’ve already written to.

  • When I rented my tiny but awesome studio in Dupont circle, I never met my landlord (in fact, we never met for the 2 years I lived there)- it was a leap of faith but I actually successfully rented the place without issues. Most absentee landlords will employ a management company or use their building’s management as a resource. Also, they allowed me to contact the previous tenant as a referee for them. If someone is trying to make you jump through weird hoops to rent a place, move on immediately. And don’t send out your personal information BEFORE seeing the place (I’ve done that, with disastrous results).

Comments are closed.